“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” –Dr. Suess
In graduate school, I taught a class for transfer and returning “non-traditional” students called Personal and Academic Success. We taught study skills, time management, budgeting, effective communication, and other life skills. Maybe that’s what now ‘qualifies’ me to write LiM2 blogs!
There was one exercise that I still use with clients today. It is a Time Management worksheet. Each day is an hour by hour column broken into 15” blocks. There are 2 columns: Plan and Monitor. On the sheet, you plan ahead for your day in quarter hours. In the Monitor column, you go back after the fact and write in what you actually did that day. To say it is eye-opening would not do the exercise justice–especially if you are struggling with time or energy management.
The students then had to write a quick narrative evaluation of themselves. I will never forget some of the comments: “Dude! I spend almost 60 hours a week partying!” (Yep–that’s more than a full time job!) “No wonder I’m not doing well—I’ve been spending over 20 hours a week watching TV.” “Is sleeping 12-13 hours a day normal?” “School is my priority but my job takes up twice as much time.”
It’s a great Values exercise.
Time Management. Nice phrase. But here’s the deal—we don’t need to manage time, we need to manage ourselves.
Time is always present, measured only by our heartbeats.
Think of all the things we say about time: Save time, slow time, hurry time, spend time, stop time, have time, waste time, keep time, make time, lose time, find time, add time. But the fact is, we can’t do any of those things. Time just IS. Time is always present, measured only by our heartbeats.
We are inclined to want to hang on to time. When I was 12 years old, I rode my bike across town to a downtown record store and bought my first 45 rpm —Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce. “If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing I’d like to do is to save every day till Eternity passes away just to spend them with you…” We want more time but sometimes idle it away. If we were to better manage ourselves with time, perhaps we would savor those times.
“You can’t save time. You can only spend it, but you can spend it wisely or foolishly.” ― Benjamin Hoff in The Tao of Pooh.
How often do we shift blame to time rather than taking responsibility for ourselves?
“I ran out of time.” No. really, “I didn’t plan well.”
“Time got away from me.” Or “I wasn’t paying attention.”
“I lost track of time.” Vs. “I was more interested in what I was doing.”
“There wasn’t enough time.” Instead of “I didn’t prioritize that.”
“I don’t have time.” Maybe it’s really, “I don’t want to.”
Time. Energy. Finances. These are the Big Three Personal Resources. Time and energy are closely related in our lives but we may not give enough thought to how we spend our time and energy. Mindlessness may prevail. Or we may not spend wisely doing the things we say are important. Unlike our financial resources, these two are more within our control. But in fact, we may spend them in ways we aren’t willing to acknowledge. How do you spend yourself?
Back to the Plan/Monitor sheet. It captures a general strategy for change:
- First we need to Assess: What ARE we doing with our time? For real. Seriously—do you really know where all your time goes?
- Second, what do you Prioritize? What are short-term vs. our long-term goals? We need to establish what is worth our time, what requires our time, and where we want to direct our time. The important things need to be placed first.
- Only then, can we execute a Plan.
Look! Now you have an APP for that! –A strategy for managing yourself with respect to time.
I’ll close with a tale of uncredited origin often used by life coaches:
One day, a professor was speaking to a group of business students. As he stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz,” and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him and produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”
Everyone in the class yelled, “Yes.”
The professor replied, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel and dumped it in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”
By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered.
“Good!” He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand and started dumping it in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”
“No!” the class shouted.
Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. He looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”
One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!”
“No,” the professor replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is, ‘if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.’
So Spend Your Time Wisely, because Life is Messy—full of gravel and sand—but the big things, the Marvelous things, are worth planning for and taking care of first.
Rainbow clocks: photo credit: mckaysavage
Musee’ D’Orsay clock: photo credit: Guner Gulyesil